In preparation for the garden party in the next couple of days, Gyokuyou was finalising her choice of outfit with her maids in the room.
“Gyokuyou-sama, is it too plain after all?” Infa tilted her head as she matched the accessories to the outfit. The colour of the dress was the same hue she wore during her time as a consort, red, but slightly darker. “Isn’t it kind of dull?”
“It goes well with the colours of the banquet. More importantly, we’re thinking of finding a good balance with his majesty.” Honnyan, who had been combing Gyokuyou’s hair, answered. As if she, too, found the shade too composed, the head maid set down the comb and headed for the dressing room. She added another kanzashi hairpin to the accessories in Infa’s hands.
Moderation was probably difficult.
If it were the time they were in the inner palace before, it would be natural to steal the march on the other consorts. So, with some common sense in mind, the maids had looked forward to how they can add some fun to it, but the circumstances were a little different this time.
“Honnyan-sama. Can we add that?” Infa looked at the kanzashi Honyan brought over disapprovingly
“Oh my, does it look strange?”
“I also think it’s okay, but hasn’t she worn it before? Back then, the empress dowager’s maid was scrutinising her outfit.”
“We can’t use this then.” Honnyan returned the kanzashi.
Fundamentally, outfits worn in large banquets are not used again in another large one. Extravagant outfits will be altered down to trifling stylish wear for tea parties and such.
As for small accessories, they can be used many times, but they cannot have people think that they only use the same things.
“But it’ll look too plain like this.”
The two of them groaned.
Gyokuyou didn’t not understand their views. “Colours aside, I want something that leaves a flashy impression. Like a large gem or the like.”
Jade, they have in abundance, but it doesn’t complement her current outfit. Something more transparent and draws attention would work better.
As well as.
“Like polished diamond from the West.”
“Searching for it at this point in time will be difficult. If we do have some, we’ll have to rush an artisan to make it though.”
Though she said that, she was going to take a look. Honnyan headed for the dressing room again. Although Gyokuyou is said to be more modest than other consorts, she is currently the empress nonetheless. She’ll have one or two crystals.
“It’s a little boring like this.” Gyokuyou stuck out her tongue.
Amusements have decreased since leaving the inner palace. It was fun to pass the days with her children, and there were various worries from the position of the emperor and empress.
But Gyokuyou is a woman still not much older than twenty. She still retained her inquisitiveness from her younger days.
“If we must, something amusing would be good.” She grinned and got up from her seat.
And then she stealthily went off to get a certain thing. The two maids didn’t recognise what Gyokuyou went to get and where she went.
“Yes, what is it?”
The two immediately came over. Gyokuyou showed them the rocks that had been wrapped up in cloth. There were three stones, highly transparent crystal; they could see through to the other side.
“…we had crystals like this?” Honnyan was bewildered.
On the other hand, Infa’s eyes widened and she compared Gyokuyou to the crystal. Gyokuyou winked, and as if she knew what Infa wanted to say, raised her index finger out of Honnyan’s notice and replied,
“I want it in this shape.”
Gyokuyou went to the table for a brush and drew a simple picture. It was a picture of a kanzashi in the shape that resembled a ground cherry, that resembled a lantern. Have it in the shape of a cage and have the crystal visible inside it. She added an explanation to the two people and passed the crystal and paper to Infa.
“Infa, go request it at once.”
“Gyokuyou-sama, if it’s a request, I can always—” Honnyan tried to take the crystal off Infa, but Gyokuyou blocked her way.
“We can have Infa do it once in a while, right? Infa should know what to do.”
“That’s true, but— Gyokuyou-sama, what are you plotting?”
How sharp. As expected of the head maid. There was also the fact that Honnyan had been keeping an eye on Gyokuyou ever since she was a child.
However, like how Honnyan knew Gyokuyou, Gyokuyou also understood Honnyan.
“–I mean, we can’t always leave it all to Honnyan, right?”
Gyokuyou dropped her gaze and looked at Honnyan with upturned eyes.
Seeing that, Honnyan’s expression stiffened. “No, as Gyokuyou-sama’s head maid, I have to do my work properly.”
“But then you won’t be able to get married, right?”
At the words married, Honnyan’s expression changed completely. It was like she got stuck by lighting. “M-married….”
Honnyan is still healthy and pretty, but she has also passed marriageable age. Where people mostly married when they were in their mid-teens and early twenties, Honnyan is thirty two. Maomao, who has medical knowledge, had said that “you can still bear children at that age”, but the person herself is impatient.
Speaking of how impatient, when they were at the inner palace, she had even gone after Gaoshun even though he’s a eunuch. By the way, Gaoshun isn’t a eunuch, but has a wife from hell who is older than him, so he clearly turned her down.
“Honnyan always does everything on your own. At this rate, once you’re gone, I won’t be able to do anything. You have to leave some work to the other maids at least.”
As a consequence of being too capable, it was probably too difficult for gentlemen to approach her as well.
Honnyan came along when Gyokuyou entered court at the age of fifteen. A capable maid was needed when you go to the inner palace, which is, in a certain meaning, an abode of demons. At the time, there were a number of maids older than Honnyan, but they returned to their hometowns one after another, after being subject to getting their lives targeted when Gyokuyou was picked by his majesty. There were some who returned to their hometown for marriage, and others who collapsed from food tasting.
The ones remaining was Honnyan, and Infa’s group–the three young and inexperienced girls. Honnyan probably stretched herself thin, thinking that she had to do it all herself.
Although she had temporarily employed a wet nurse when her daughter was born, Gyokuyou didn’t know friend from foe as she had been raised in the desert, so they hadn’t taken in any new maids.
Entering in the middle of that, was Maomao.
It was fun when that girl was here, Gyokuyou fell deep into her memories, but now wasn’t the time to think about it.
For Gyokuyou to kill time, she had to give her all into misleading Honnyan.
“Dad also mentioned it before. That we have to prepare a good marriage match for Honnayn.”
“Gyoku’en-sama did….” Honnyan was moved.
It wasn’t a lie. Dad had said that “Honnyan’s children will be excellent no matter their gender.” And that it’s too late to have them as foster siblings, but they would serve us well.
“It’s also different from then, we have more maids now. You don’t need to always get worked up.”
Due to the crown prince’s birth, three maids had come in from their hometown, and the numbers increased further when Gyokuyou became the empress.
“I understand that you’re uneasy. It may not be the inner palace, but this is still a battlefield for women. We don’t know what will happen. But, you are no longer alone. Please think more about your future and live.”
Gyokuyou was impressed by her eloquence. This personality of hers is fortunate. She might survive even in the battlefield of women.
“Gyokuyou-sama, you think about me this way…” Honnyan’s eyes were damp. “I understand. From now on, I will call for Airan and Guien. I’ll check to see how much I can entrust my work to them.”
Immediately motivated, she left the room.
Her side profile was flushed like a maiden.
When Gyokuyou was left alone in the room, she stretched out her hand for the writing materials on the desk again.
This goes beyond a joke. She decided to write a letter to Gyoku’en in the capital to see if there’s a good marriage match.